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SIMPLE TRUTHS AND PERSONAL GLIMPSES

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BY STEVE DUNN

I have been in the ministry for 45 years–starting as a youth pastor back in 1971. Since 2008, I have added teaching graduate students in a seminary to my resume. Since last January I have added teaching history to high school students from Korea to my professional mix. I am about to do both again. Monday Morning Reflections this week is late because I am busy completing syllabi, lesson plans and initial lessons for high schools kids (9th, 10th and 11th graders) and seminarians (only God knows some of their ages and it would be ecclesiastically/politically incorrect to ask). High school starts next Monday, seminary two weeks later.

At this moment I am firmly reminded of the words of Solomon, an ancient wise man of centuries ago:

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As they say in my profession: “That’ll preach.” And so far that is true just for the instructor. It will soon be the lament of my students and their compatriots.

Yet as I wade through all the paperwork and other preparations, it is a labor of love. It is also a critical endeavor. Knowledge is the beginning of power and ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.

Education provides knowledge, but more than that–the discipline of learning and the accountability needed not only to get a good grade but to live life with competence, confidence, and significance.

Knowing the details of early American politics may not come into daily usefulness for all of my high schoolers, any more than the nuances of biblical interpretation for my seminarians. But the process of learning with its requirement to live by standards of excellence and to use that learning with integrity are survival values for society and the Church.

I love my students too much to let them be wallow in ignorance, shackled by laziness, and handicapped by an uninformed life. And I love our nation, our world, and the Kingdom of God not to do my part in educating.

So now–back to the preparations. May they bear much fruit which will last.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

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BY STEVE DUNN

Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it. Summertime. – STEVE

Summer officially began a week ago. Cool mornings and sunshine.  Later in the day, hot breezes and the sound of lawn mowers and children at play.   At night, fairs and festivals and baseball games. And sometimes thunderstorms rolling in to rock the night and mess up your satellite TV reception. Dips in the pool and Dairy Queen runs.  The smell of backyard barbecues and colorful boom of fireworks.

Although I don’t like the dryness and heat that accompany summertime, I love the season.   If I allow myself to shift gears mentally, summer often brings more freedom and spontaneity to my days.  If I have some money left over after all the bills, I might even manage a vacation somewhere.

This summer I have only a part-time job working for my seminary (to read more about my seminary click WINEBRENNER)  Half-time means 20-25 hours, basically three days a week.  Although it will be tight this summer financially, I never had a summer when I had four days a week off.  A day to do household things and pay the bills–but still with three more days at my discretion and Gods’ prompting.

I am. however, a planner.  I make lists, and keep a paper planner.  I enjoy the thrill of checking things off those lists because I take energy from knowing that I have done something useful, even if half the list or more is yet to be done.

There is a danger in overplanning.  It’s called overdoing.  And overdoing is antithetical to resting, relaxing and refreshing.  So my plans this summer are simply–more aimed at enjoying and stretching my boundaries.  Here is my short list.

* Finish unpacking and hanging the last of the pictures on the wall.  We have only loved in this house for eight months, but there are still boxes in the garage to be unpacked.  We have some great pictures that bless no one in a box.

* Spend more time with Dianne, being in one another’s presence and enjoying one another’s company.  It helps that see in willing to watch the Mlb Channel with me.

* Work on that mystery novel that has lain dormant on legal pads for  too many years.

* Spend more time alone with God and His Word.

Do you have a list?  Summertime has a way of disappearing for those  forget that “to everything there is a season …”  So ENJOY your summer.

 

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

STATUE OF LIBERTY

In this June 2, 2009 photo, the Statue of Liberty is seen in New York harbor. The crown is set to open July 4 after being closed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BY STEVE DUNN

In New York harbor sits one of the most famous landmarks in the world–the Statue of Liberty.  Engraved on “Miss LIberty” are these words–a poem called “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

When I was but a schoolboy in western Ohio, I was taught these words, then marked as a symbol of the incredible core values that drove my nation’s actions.

Over the 65 years of my life I have met countless people drawn to this nation because of the twin promises of liberty and opportunity–people enriched by their coming and often enriching our nation because they came.

Post 9-11 America finds itself hard-pressed to live out these values.  Under the threat of Isis and other terrorists movements, we seem intent on closing that ‘golden door.”  Not completely.  People like us politically, whose religion does not threaten ours, whose economic goals do not undermine us, who will not compete for our resources, and who will embrace the prevailing secular individualism of the age–these people are still welcome.

I share our concerns about national security and obedience to the laws of the land; but sometimes I fear that the grace and compassion, the commitment to liberty for all peoples is being eroded or being replaced with a selfish inwardness that violates one of the most fundamental laws of the God I honor’ “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Is it possible to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this nation without quenching that lamp beside the Golden Door?

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

 

BY STEVE DUNN

My mother was a beautiful woman – both physically and spiritually.  If she was still living, today would be the 66th wedding anniversary of Marilyn Reames and A. Gail Dunn.  My mother died in 2000 of cancer, just a few months past their 50th wedding anniversary.

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They were married on New Year’s Day in the just completed chapel of the new College First of God by their pastor, Dr. Darrell Linder.  Both were students at my denomination’s school Findlay College.  Gail, a native of Columbia City IN was a history major and a cheerleader, a year younger than Marilyn.  He also sang in a quartet called The Gospel Five and was preparing for the ministry.  Marilyn was ultimately training to become a medical technician.  A high school beauty and a member of the College Choir, she came from Zanesfield, Ohio-the daughter of a nominally Christian family that was attending a Friends Meeting when she enrolled in college.  The first time Dad saw Mom, the very first time, he said, “I am going to marry her.”

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My paternal grandparents, TA and Mary Ruth Dunn, were very excited about their beautiful new daughter-in-law; especially she since was a warm, outgoing, and mature Christian.  Her parents did not attend the wedding.  My maternal grandmother, Wynona Reames thought her daughter could have done better than being married to a preacher.  I suspect her husband Robert, who came from a staunchly Methodist family didn’t share her opinion, but Grandma won most arguments in their family.  For the record, a few weeks later, she changed her mind and they showed up at the newlyweds humble lodgings (remember they were both college students) with wedding presents and kisses.  Over the years she came to love my Dad, especially since he loved her only daughter.  (My strong-willed grandmother, however, always insisted on picking up the check.)

A year later Mom dropped out of college to have me.  Dad graduated and was ordained to the ministry of the then Churches of God in North America.  My mother was a stay-at-home Mom

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as they had three more children.  After the youngest, Mark, was born. she went back to college earning her degree in medical technology and enduring the trampoline in gym class, graduating 17 years later as the oldest member of  her class.

Mom and Dad always went to lunch on their anniversary, a tough task since it was New Year’s Day and many restaurants were closed.  Their favorite was the Embers in Carlisle PA.   The first anniversary that Dianne and I enjoyed we went to the Embers, a high class place for college students. Yes, we got married in college, too but Dianne managed to graduate 10 days before our first child was born.

Gail and Marilyn were devoted to one another.  And they passed that devotion to one another in marriage–and a devotion to Jesus Christ, that inspired many.  Later, when Dad became the conference superintendent, they made a ministry of inviting clergy couples to their home for dinner, fellowship and encouragement.  To this day, I continue to meet pastoral couples who consider the ministry Marilyn and Gail provided to them one of the best blessings God had bestowed on them.

I thought celebrating them, especially because of their New Year’s Day wedding, would be my most appropriate first blog post of the New Year.  Better them than the celebs and pols and villains that will occupy center stage in the broader world.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

BY STEVE DUNN

Grandpa and his newest granddaughter, Emmaline

It’s 10:00 pm on December 28th as I begin this post.  My wife and I are en route back to Pennsylvania following a delightful Christmas Week with three of our kids and their families in the Midwest.   I am wide awake in the Comfort Inn in Somerset PA and got the urge to blog – urge or inspiration, never quite sure which word is correct.  My thoughts have turned not to 2016, but the months that I have passed through in 2015.  So here are some of my thoughts on what God was doing in me and through me in the year that is about to be history.

IMG_20151219_192058229Dianne and I celebrated 43 years of marriage.  No small accomplishment in a world where relationships are so transient.  Dianne and I have been sharing a journey of ministry, child-raising, and serving that has been a challenge at times because of what the Lord has called us to do.  But it has been an incredible blessing as I have experienced over and over the joy of loving and being loved by one of the most beautiful people God has created.

We continued serving as an Intentional Interim Specialist/Pastor, moving in January from an assignment that involved a church of nearly 700 to one that served 100.  The Newport First Church of God in Perry County, Pennsylvania proved to be one of most pleasant pastorates–healthy people who loved each other, loved God, and loved us. We were able to help them find a pastor in nine months and my assignment ended two months later. I am now awaiting the next assignment having developed a new love–helping churches navigate the often difficult, uncertain and even grieving time when they lose their pastor.  Churches often rush to fill the void and end up “marrying on the rebounds” which unfortunately ends as well as marriages on the rebound between a man and a woman.

I am teacher by gifting and passion.  For the last several years I have served as an adjunct professor for Winebrenner Theological Seminary.  This summer I was invited to the multiple-hat, daunting and yet highly satisfying responsibility of being hired as the Academic and Institutional Liaison for the Scotland PA location.  It is a new venture with incredible potential to impact the Kingdom in our region.  And on top of it I have been able to continue teaching, helping shape men and women to be resilient, healthy, faithful and fruitful pastors and ministry leaders.  This took me into a new realm of ministry that like Intentional Interim work has renewed my passion to serve Jesus.

 In January, I realized a life-long dream–to be published.  My first book The Bridgebuilder Principle was released.  It was a clear stating of what I have devoted much of my life to–helping churches effectively reach their unchurched neighbors.  Helping them be healthy, outward focused and on mission with Jesus as they build bridges of truth and grace to the Bridge – Jesus Christ. Not only was it gratifying to know people were reading and using this fruit of my labor, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to autograph their copies.  (Hey, there’s a little egotism in all of us.)

All of this comes with a price.  A friend, Mark Hosler and I were invited to join a committee to develop a program of training for interventionists who help a church deal with the dismissal of their pastor for moral or legal reasons.  (Isn’t that a sign of our times?)  In the early going, though, we weren’t sure why we were working on a project that was staffed with some powerful spiritual and mental health professionals.  When we asked why, the young chairwoman said (reflecting that this all would have to pass through ecclesiastical hoops) “because you are two old guys with clout.”  The clout part was okay but the “old guy” provoked some troubling thoughts.

There’s a lot more and I may write more; but for now my initial reflection is that I simply chose to be obedient to God as I walked through my 64th year of life and He blessed me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.

P.S. – My time at Newport allowed me for the first time since I was in high school that I got to walk in a parade (the 175th Anniversary Festival Parade.)  It was a hoot!

BY STEVE DUNN

Just a couple of hours until the New Year arrives.  Dianne and I are at the age where a quiet evening at home is preferable to parting til the ball drops.  We both slept a little later to start the day.  Then we binged on popcorn at a nearby Regal to see “The Hobbit–The Battle of Five Armies” (4 1/2 stars out of five).  Had an early dinner at Applebees (meaning three in the afternoon).  We shared the restaurant with yet perky wait staff, families with very young children (who will probably be in bed by seven) and couples of an older persuasion trying to get off the road before the crazies come out.

This evening more popcorn, some dangerous sweets, and in about two hours, a cold bottle of sparkling cider.  Our TV fare has been a Big Bang Theory Marathon on TBS.  Since we have lost touch with the music pop culture, all the variation’s of Rockin’ New Year’s Eve have no appeal.  We will switch to Ryan Secrest at 11:45 and watch the ball drop.  Break open the cider, the annual New Year’s Eve Kiss.  Both of us will probably be asleep by 12:25.

Sound boring.–No, satisfying.

New Year’s Eve means an end to 2014–filled with memories, challenges, mistakes, and triumphs.  It means that tomorrow we will awaken on a fresh new opportunity (although  it will not look much different from this morning, still embedded in 2014.)

Satisfying is preferable to sensational, the latter often like a comet speeding across the night sky, but forgotten with the sunrise of the next day. Satisfying is a sign of contentment.

The Bible has a thought on that with which I wrap up this post.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” – I Timothy 6:6

Good counsel with which to greet 2015.

BY STEVE DUNN

Reading: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:8

Many years ago Dianne and I had the great privilege of attending the Billy Graham School of Evangelism in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. The School itself was housed at the Chateau Lake Louise, a magnificent five-star hotel next to pristine Moraine Lake, fed by a glacier.One afternoon, the two of us and our friend George Reser decided to hike out to the glacier.  This was November. The path, which was quite narrow and snow-covered was not easy-going.  On one side of the path was a fairly steep drop into the icy waters of the lake.  The other side, a mountain side with more ice, a little brush, snow, and nothing to invite anything but a veteran climber to tackle it.  I was the epitome of the word novice.

That region was inhabited by some magnificent creatures, the Rocky Mountain Goat.  Bigger than a man, strong, somewhat gruff-looking, agile and sure-footed.  They really are an awesome part of God’s animal kingdom.

As I reached midpoint on the trail, now as narrow as two feet placed sided-by-side and even more perilously close the the frigid lake waters, I saw one of these creatures heading straight down the path towards me.  I quickly began to assess my situation and had no desire to meet the goat head-on.  Between us perched next to the path was a large boulder.  I moved to it, stepped off the path (on the upward slope) and hid behind it.  I figured I’d let him pass before I continued on.

I waited, and waited, and waited.  No animal passed by. Finally I crept towards the front of the boulder and stuck my head out to see what had happened.  And my face greeted the goat’s face on the other side of the rock looking at me, engaged in the same investigation.  Sizing m up, the goat perked up, then turned and went straight up the steep hillside to higher ground.

The goat saw no reason to challenge me on the path, or maybe just took pity on this two-legged mountain novice.

In a world of confrontation, demanding of our rights, asserting ourselves, and just plain belligerence; we are reminded that such attitudes and the actions that result are often in conflict with God’s purposes and inflict unnecessary pain on the persons we cross paths with crossly.

Maybe it’s time for us to re-embrace Paul’s counsel and find God-honoring ways to live at peace with people.

(c) 2012 BY STEPHEN L DUNN   This post originally appeared on my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST